I must admit that Caseificio Francesco Rabbia was not a cheesemaker I had heard of until September this year when I suddenly came across their stand at the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Torino. Fortunately they were in a part of the exhibition that were not so crowded as the outdoor narrow passages with boots on both sides. Some of the Italian provinces had their own areas that were much more accessible and gave room for a chat.
So browsing around led me to the cheesemaker Francesco Rabbia, situated in a village called Ruffia the western part of Piemonte, the province of Cueno on the plains just before the Alps bordering Italy and France rise. It takes about 30 minutes by car from Bra or 50 from Alba. A family run dairy making a range of cheeses from various types of milk, which means cow’s, goats’ and ewe’s milk, and of course in true Italian style mixed varieties as well.
Being an artisan dairy they have their milk delivered from the farmers in the village, which has been going on every morning for more than thirty years. From that milk they create wonderful raw milk cheeses. Local varieties and a number of DOP cheeses as well, of which the Raschera and Bra cheeses are the most famous. The dairy is far older than the thirty years mentioned as it was established back in 1890. The dairy has three copper cauldrons, the oldest of which is from 1840 and still in operation.
They have kept the traditions alive, very much concern with what they can achieve from the nature around them. They get green electricity from the the mountain areas round the famous peak Monviso. Their cheeses are handmade and the cloth they use in the cheese making is linen, and has always been. The animals are grass fed during summer and get hay during wintertime. Generation after generation, the Francesco Rabbia dairy has cultivated culture, values and peasant know-how. The art of transformation is the daughter of respect for nature. A supply chain economy is applied where, even before, the farmers are agricultural producers and custodians of the land.
Francesco Rabbia’s Il Muschio
Il Muschio is a blue cheese that has taken its inspiration from Roquefort and Gorgonzola respectively. The result is very pleasing. Cow’s milk. Medium strength, not as powerful as a Gorgonzola piccante and not as salt as most Roqueforts. Something in-between there, which I find very pleasing. Bluish mould (that’s not always the case), and with slightly spicy notes. To find suitable pairing I choose to go to Veneto and a red Recioto della Valpolicella which becomes the cheese very well.
They have a wide range, 19 actually, in addition to butter, ricotta and panna cotta. Of These 19 I have only tasted one in addition to their Il Muschio. That’s Nodo del Saio a semi firm cheese with natural rind, that actually comes in two variants; one with purely cows’ milk and the other a blend of cows’ and goats’ milk. The one I have tasted is the latter. Sweet and delicate when young, more complex flavours naturally, as it matures. Very agreeable.